You may have heard about the new law in New Jersey relating to Drug Court expungements. That law went into effect on April 18, 2016, and provides that those individuals who have successfully completed a Drug Court program in New Jersey may be eligible to have their entire criminal records expunged – regardless of the age or the number of convictions that the Drug Court graduate has on their criminal record.
This new law drastically changes the expungement opportunities available to graduates of the Drug Court program. Due to their drug and/or alcohol addictions, most participants in New Jersey Drug Court have extensive criminal records. This includes not only convictions for drug offenses, but also for drug-related offenses such as theft, burglary, etc. Under the standard expungement law in New Jersey, which limits the number of offenses an individual can expunge, most Drug Court participants would not be eligible for an expungement due to their extensive criminal records. Since Drug Court graduates are deemed to have been rehabilitated, however, the intent of the law is to allow them to clear their criminal records in order to facilitate their ability to become productive members of society.
According to the New Jersey Drug Court Program’s Statistical Highlights, as of February 6, 2017, the total number of participants enrolled in the New Jersey Drug Court program since the program’s inception is 21,098. Of those participants, a total of 4,760 have successfully graduated from all phases of the program. Moreover, since the new Drug Court expungement law went into effect in April of 2016, a total of 53 graduates have successfully had their criminal records expunged under the Drug Court expungement law.
Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding New Jersey Drug Court expungements.
What is Drug Court?
New Jersey Drug Courts exist as an alternative to incarceration for those being charged with felony offenses. The intent of the program is to help non-violent drug offenders through rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration, which can often results in an even worse addiction. The program recognizes that if these individuals are not provided with appropriate treatment, they will likely come into contact with the criminal justice system again. These programs focus on treatment and rehabilitation in order to stop the abuse of alcohol and other drugs and related criminal activity. Drug court programs in New Jersey are rigorous. They require intensive supervision and include frequent drug testing and court appearances.
What does the new Drug Court expungement law provide?
On April 18, 2016, New Jersey’s expungement law was amended to provide for Drug Court expungements. The new expungement law is located at N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(m). Under the new Drug Court expungement law, the court may order the expungement of all records relating to all prior arrests and convictions upon the Drug Court participant’s successful discharge from the program.
Am I eligible for a Drug Court expungement?
In order to be eligible for a Drug Court expungement in New Jersey, each of the following must be true:
1. You were successfully discharged from Drug Court.
2. You were not convicted of a crime or adjudged a disorderly person or petty disorderly person, during the term of Drug Court.
3. You have not been convicted of any offense barred from expungement under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(b).
This would include convictions for more serious offenses, such as murder, kidnapping, arson, robbery, or sexual assault.
4. You have not been convicted of any offense barred from expungement under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(c).
This would include convictions for first or second degree sale or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance or possession with the intent to sell.
I graduated (or will graduate) from Drug Court after April 18, 2016. What is the Drug Court expungement procedure?
If you graduated from Drug Court on or after April 18, 2016, either you or your attorney should request an expungement from the Drug Court judge before graduation. The law provides that for those graduating from Drug Court after April 18, 2016, the procedural requirements of the standard New Jersey expungement statute relating to the filing of a verified petition, service, etc. do not apply and that no court fee will be charged for the expungement.
Either you or your attorney, however, should fill out a proposed Drug Court Expungement Order, listing all of the offenses you would like the court to expunge. Once the court signs the Drug Court Expungement Order, thereby granting your expungement, you or your attorney must then timely serve copies of the Drug Court Expungement Order on all relevant agencies, directing them to remove the record from their databases.
I graduated from Drug Court before April 18, 2016. What is the Drug Court expungement procedure?
If you graduated from Drug Court prior to April 18, 2016, then your Drug Court expungement will proceed just like any other expungement application in New Jersey pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1, et seq., which will require the filing of a Verified Petition for Expungement with the Superior Court. Since this procedure is technical, we suggest you contact an attorney for assistance in filing your Drug Court expungement.
What if I did not graduate from Drug Court? Am I eligible?
The Drug Court expungement statute states that Drug Court participants are eligible for a Drug Court expungement upon “successful discharge” from Drug Court. According to New Jersey Court Directive #02-16, “Protocol for Drug Court Expungements:”
‘Successful discharge’ has been determined to be graduation from Drug Court. Therefore, persons who did not graduate from Drug Court are not eligible for a ‘drug court expungement.’
Whether or not you actually participated in the formal graduation ceremony does not matter here. What matters is that you successfully completed and graduated from all phases of the Drug Court program.
What if I got into trouble after I graduated from Drug Court?
According to the statute, if you graduated Drug Court before April 18, 2016, but you subsequently were convicted of “any crime of offense” since you completed Drug Court, you are not eligible for a Drug Court expungement.
In addition, for those who graduated from Drug Court after April 18, 2016, and have successfully had their records expunged pursuant to the Drug Court expungement statute, it is vital that you stay out of trouble. According to the statute, if you are subsequently “convicted of any crime” after discharge from Drug Court, “full record of arrests and convictions may be restored to public access and no future expungement shall be granted.”
Experienced, Affordable Expungement Lawyers
If you have questions regarding your Drug Court expungement, contact the expungement lawyers at Katherine O’Brien Law today. We offer affordable expungements. Our basic fee for an expungement is $675.00 (all inclusive). In addition, we offer flexible payment plans and can start working on your expungement for as little as $300.00 down. Call us today at 856-832-2482 for a free consultation or fill out our Expungement Interview Form.